Airport retailing is one of the few bright lights in brick and mortar retailing. Every recent airport expansion includes expanded retail and restaurant space. Specialty retailers want to take advantage of a customer base that is literally locked in with money in their pocket.

    To succeed, a retailer needs to overcome three key obstacles:
    1. A tightly edited assortment reliably replenished through airport operations. The assortment must be lightweight and impulsively appealing. Think consumable, wearable or giftable.
    2. A highly independent staff that can pass all airport security screenings. Some airports have staffing assistance where store or kiosks can outsource their labor to airport vetted personnel. But the customer experience can damage the brand. One bright spot in staffing is that airports are nearly always on public transportation lines making the commute less of an obstacle for attracting staff. Be prepared: Airport labor usually commands a premium price.
    3. Distilling the brand experience into a small footprint. Airport stores under 1000 square feet require a shrewd retailer who selects a perfect mini-representation of the usual brand experience.


    Open Book in the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport is an outstanding example of airport retailing.

    The independent bookstore in Minneapolis is aligned with the nationally-recognized Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions and Minnesota Center for Book Arts. This airport store stands out against the typical tired WHSmith Booksellers and book/magazine heavy shops in most airports.

    Clever things to bring the book store experience to life.


    Take to the air. The small store uses space above the bookcases to reinforce the brand. 3-D book art highlights bookcases on the center of the store and gives a sense of “rooms” within the shop. They are iconic and charmingly paired with equally inexpensive vintage light fixtures.

    Use the windows to tell the story. The children’s department uses paper airplanes as a design element. The planes in the window repeat in the store where acrylic “paper airplanes” hang from the ceiling above the children’s section.

    Turn a design challenge into a design advantage. Unlike most airport shops, Open Book placed the register against the center window of the store. Store associates watch customers and see them enter and exit the store from the perfect register location. The area behind the register conveys both interior and exterior branding. From the inside, a series of paneled doors look like book spines. (A mission statement plus READ, WRITE, CREATE, EXPLORE.) From the outside of the store, a series of easy-to-maintain vignettes hide behind the doors and showcase the breadth of products and genres found within.


    Retailers who create a new store format to reach new customers, usually stumble when translating their street stores into kiosks and small-space stores. Our New Concept Development helps retailers and consumer brands create a store that supports the brand position and is easy to operate. If you are ready for help in creating your airport or micro-sized format, contact us today.